In the modern period, language death has typically resulted from the process of cultural assimilation leading to language shift, and the gradual abandonment of a native language in favour of a foreign lingua franca.
A language that currently has living native speakers is called a modern language. As of the 2000s, a total of roughly 7,000 natively spoken languages existed worldwide. Most of these are minor languages in danger of extinction; one estimate published in 2004 expected that some 90% of the currently spoken languages would have become extinct by 2050.
Normally the transition from a spoken to an extinct language occurs when a language undergoes language death while being directly replaced by a different one. For example, some Native American languages were replaced by English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, or Dutch as a result of colonization.
In contrast to an extinct language, which no longer has any speakers, or any written use, a historical language may remain in use as a literary or liturgical language long after it ceases to be spoken natively. Such languages are sometimes also referred to as "dead languages", but more typically as classical language. The most prominent Western example of such a language is Latin, but comparable cases are found throughout world history due to the universal tendency to retain the historical stage of a language as liturgical language.
Historical languages with living descendants that have undergone significant language change may be considered "extinct", especially in cases where they did not leave a corpus of literature or liturgy that remained in widespread use, as is the case with e.g. Old English or Old High German (etc.) relative to their contemporary descendants, English and German (etc.).
Minor languages are endangered mostly due to economic and cultural globalization and development. With increasing economic integration on national and regional scales, people find it easier to communicate and conduct business in the dominant lingua francas of world commerce: English, Chinese, Spanish and French.
In their study of contact-induced language change, American linguists Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman (1991) stated that in situations of cultural pressure (where populations must speak a dominant language), three linguistic outcomes may occur: first - and most commonly - a subordinate population may shift abruptly to the dominant language, leaving the native language to a sudden linguistic death. Second, the more gradual process of language death may occur over several generations. The third and most rare outcome is for the pressured group to maintain as much of its native language as possible, while borrowing elements of the dominant language's grammar (replacing all, or portions of, the grammar of the original language).
Institutions such as the education system, as well as (often global) forms of media such as the Internet, television, and print media play a significant role in the process of language loss. For example, immigrants may travel from one country to another, their children then attend school in the country, and the schools may teach them in the official language of the country rather than their native language.
Language revival is the attempt to re-introduce a recently-extinct language in everyday use by a new generation of native speakers. The optimistic neologism "sleeping beauty languages" has been used to express such a hope.
Hebrew is an example of a liturgical language that has successfully been revived for everyday use. The revival of Hebrew has been largely successful due to extraordinarily favourable conditions, notably the creation of a nation state for which it was to become the official language. Revival attempts of minor languages with no status as liturgical language typically have more modest results. The Cornish language revival is an example of a major success for the revival of such a language, as after a century of effort there are 3,500 claimed native speakers, which has been sufficient to change the classification by UNESCO from "extinct" to "critically endangered".
Recently extinct languages
This is a list of languages reported as having become extinct after the year 2000. For a more complete list, see List of extinct languages.
|Date||Language||Language family||Region||Terminal speakers / Notes|
|February 2016||Nuchatlaht dialect of Nuu-chah-nulth||Wakashan||British Columbia, Canada||Alban Michael|
|February 4, 2014|| Klallam|
|Salishan||Washington, United States: northeast Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles.||Hazel Sampson|
|June 5, 2013|| Livonian|
Liv, Livõ kel
|Uralic||Latvia: Kurzeme, west of Kolkasrags, 12 coastal villages; Riga area dispersed.||Grizelda Kristina|
|October 2, 2012|| Cromarty dialect of Scots|
Black Isle dialect
|Germanic||Northern Scotland, United Kingdom||Bobby Hogg|
|October 24, 2010|| Pazeh|
|Formosan languages||Taiwan: West coast area, east of Tayal, Cholan area, Houli, Fengyuan, Tantzu, Taichung, Tungshih.||Pan Jin-yu|
|August 20, 2010|| Cochin Indo-Portuguese Creole|
|Portuguese-based Creole||southern India: a few Christian families on Vypeen Island (Vypin Island) in the city of Cochin (Kochi) in Kerala.||William Rozario|
|January 26, 2010|| Aka-Bo|
|Andamanese||Andaman Islands, India: east central coast of North Andaman island, North Reef island.||Boa Sr.|
|2009||Nyawaygi||Pama–Nyungan||Australia: Northeast Queensland, Herberton south to Herbert river headwaters, to Cashmere, at Ravenshoe, Millaa Millaa and Woodleigh, east to Tully Falls.||Willie Seaton|
|November 2009|| Aka-Kora|
|Andamanese||Andaman Islands, India: northeast and north central coasts of North Andaman Island, Smith Island.||Boro|
|by 2009||Pataxó Hã-Ha-Hãe||unclassified||Brazil: Minas Gerais and Bahia states, Pôsto Paraguassu in Itabuna municipality.||shifted to Portuguese.|
|January 21, 2008|| Eyak|
|Na-Dene||Alaska, United States: Copper river mouth.||Marie Smith Jones|
|c.2008 (?)|| Bidyara|
Bidjara, Bithara, Bitjara
|Pama–Nyungan||Queensland, Australia: between Tambo and Augathella, Warrego and Langlo rivers.||20 speakers found in 1981; effectively extinct by 2008|
|c.2006 (?)||A-Pucikwar||Andamanese||Andaman Islands, India: Straight Island.||
10 or fewer speakers found in 2006; was reportedly spoken by 8–10 of total population of 53 individuals on Strait Island.
|2005||Osage||Siouan||Oklahoma, United States||Lucille Roubedeaux|
|2003|| Akkala Sami |
Ahkkil, Babino, Babinsk
|Uralic||Kola Peninsula, Russia: Murmanskaya Oblast’, southwest Kola peninsula.||Marja Sergina|
|May 2002|| Gaagudju|
Abdedal, Abiddul, Gaagudju, Kakadu, Kakakta, Kakdju, Kakdjuan
|Arnhem Land languages||Northern Territory, Australia: Oenpelli.||Big Bill Neidjie|
|2000||Sowa||Malayo-Polynesian||Pentecost Island, Vanuatu||Maurice Tabi|
|Trans-New Guinea||Papua New Guinea: Central Province, north and west of Laua.||one speaker found in 1987|
|c.2000||Mesmes||Semitic||Ethiopia: YeDebub Biheroch Biherese na Hizboch State, Gurage, Hadiyya, and Kambaata zones.||Last speaker was interviewed by language survey team, aged ~80. He had not spoken the language for 30 years.|
- Endangered language
- Category:Extinct languages
- Language death
- Language revival
- Language teaching
- Lists of endangered languages
- List of languages by time of extinction
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Extinct languages.|
- Lenore A. Grenoble, Lindsay J. Whaley, Saving Languages: An Introduction to Language Revitalization, Cambridge University Press (2006) p.18
- "Study by language researcher, David Graddol". MSNBC. 2004-02-26. Retrieved 2012-03-22. Ian on Friday, January 16, 2009 61 comments (2009-01-16). "Research by Southwest University for Nationalities College of Liberal Arts". Chinasmack.com. Retrieved 2012-03-22.. Ethnologue records 7,358 living languages known,"Ethnologue". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on October 5, 2001. Retrieved 2012-03-22. but on 2015-05-20, Ethnologue reported only 7,102 known living languages; and on 2015-02-23, Ethnologue already reported only 7,097 known living languages.
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- The Dodo's Fate: How Languages Become Extinct
- The Foundation of Endangered Languages
- Endangered Languages
- Photos of letters/characters from ancient and living languages featured on exterior walls of Library of Alexandria